Guillain–Barré Syndrome Associated with Zika Virus Infection in Colombia

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Abstract

BACKGROUND

Zika virus (ZIKV) infection has been linked to the Guillain–Barré syndrome. From November 2015 through March 2016, clusters of cases of the Guillain–Barré syndrome were observed during the outbreak of ZIKV infection in Colombia. We characterized the clinical features of cases of Guillain–Barré syndrome in the context of this ZIKV infection outbreak and investigated their relationship with ZIKV infection.

METHODS

A total of 68 patients with the Guillain–Barré syndrome at six Colombian hospitals were evaluated clinically, and virologic studies were completed for 42 of the patients. We performed reverse-transcriptase–polymerase-chain-reaction (RT-PCR) assays for ZIKV in blood, cerebrospinal fluid, and urine, as well as antiflavivirus antibody assays.

RESULTS

A total of 66 patients (97%) had symptoms compatible with ZIKV infection before the onset of the Guillain–Barré syndrome. The median period between the onset of symptoms of ZIKV infection and symptoms of the Guillain–Barré syndrome was 7 days (interquartile range, 3 to 10). Among the 68 patients with the Guillain–Barré syndrome, 50% were found to have bilateral facial paralysis on examination. Among 46 patients in whom nerve-conduction studies and electromyography were performed, the results in 36 patients (78%) were consistent with the acute inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy subtype of the Guillain–Barré syndrome. Among the 42 patients who had samples tested for ZIKV by RT-PCR, the results were positive in 17 patients (40%). Most of the positive RT-PCR results were in urine samples (in 16 of the 17 patients with positive RT-PCR results), although 3 samples of cerebrospinal fluid were also positive. In 18 of 42 patients (43%) with the Guillain–Barré syndrome who underwent laboratory testing, the presence of ZIKV infection was supported by clinical and immunologic findings. In 20 of these 42 patients (48%), the Guillain–Barré syndrome had a parainfectious onset. All patients tested were negative for dengue virus infection as assessed by RT-PCR.

CONCLUSIONS

The evidence of ZIKV infection documented by RT-PCR among patients with the Guillain–Barré syndrome during the outbreak of ZIKV infection in Colombia lends support to the role of the infection in the development of the Guillain–Barré syndrome. (Funded by the Bart McLean Fund for Neuroimmunology Research and others.)

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